The luxury of a printed photography book is hard to beat. If the book is filled with favourite images you’ve taken yourself, even better! The process can be a little daunting if you’re unsure how to take the first step. Here are some top tips and a couple of insider secrets to help breathe life into your photo book idea.
Learn from the Master
If you are looking for inspiration from the best, look no further than Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “The Decisive Moment” (Images á la Sauvette). The acclaimed photographer’s bible on the art of creating a photo book focuses on the crucial difference between the extraordinary and mundane image: the ‘decisive moment’.
Once Upon a Time…
Your viewer looks to you for direction as they page through your photographs, please don’t bore them. Your photo book must tell a story. While this is a prescriptive command, the reality is even the breeziest collection of images were selected for a specific reason. This clarity also helps you whittle down your image selection. There will be an overlap where more than one photo tells the same part of the story. Your images will be punchier and your story tighter if you select the best image to tell a particular part of the story.
Size is Everything
The size of your book is influenced by the story. There’s no point selecting an 8×8 inch book to showcase your panoramic landscapes. Selecting the size of your photo book is a balance of reflecting the story and the layout design you have in mind. Favourite choices include A3 or A5 hardbacks.
Designing Your Layout
An effective layout commands attention, drawing the viewer’s eye to your desired focal point. There are no easy ways to achieve this aesthetic nirvana. Paging through a pile of your favourite photographers’ books is an enjoyable start. Mixing up your layouts can work too. Using a particularly beautiful image spread across both pages, or a powerful image supported by two smaller images can work very well. The usual design rules apply: less is more. And when in doubt, ask yourself how the layout tells the story.
Don’t Fence Me in?
To border or not to border your images. That is the million pound question. This is all down to your aesthetic eye and the story you are telling. For example, choosing a border requires the same eye as mounting a print. How much space does this image need? If on the other hand you decide not to border (called “full bleed”), don’t forget this insider secret: request the image continue over the edge of the page to avoid that ghostly white line framing the image when its cut.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand…
Captions? Another personal choice. You can make them as practical or metaphorical as you like. If you decide to use captions don’t echo the most apparent elements in the image. Give your viewer something interesting such as further insight into your world. Remember: captions influence your layout, so if you decide to include them, bear this in mind.
One more thing: don’t pile on the pressure when selecting that vital cover image. All you have to ask yourself is ‘which photograph would make you want to open this book?’